The blogger from May Dreams Garden blog started the tradition of “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day” on the 15th of every month. I like the idea of recording what’s in bloom in my garden on a regular basis, but have somehow always missed the 15th. This time, I managed to get outside, camera in hand!
Hover over any photo to see what it is. Click on a photo to view them in slideshow mode.
I’ve been feeling a bit blue this April, a time of year when we often go on some kind of family adventure, but it’s not in the cards for this year. So my husband suggested a consolation prize: a plant-buying expedition at the New England Wildflower Society. The Garden in the Woods only opened on April 14, and I wasn’t sure if we’d find many plants for sale, but we did! To be sure, they were light on the shrubs which are still mostly bare twigs and therefore not very attractive to potential buyers. On the other hand, there were many beautiful small plants and early wildflowers that are inspiring at this time of year. I love going to NEWFS at different times of the year, and being able to see both a different selection and different phases of familiar plants. You can tell how good my experience with their plants have been – I bought two “plants” that actually haven’t emerged. We joked that they could have a great business just selling potting soil with plant labels (not really).
So here’s what I got:
Two more bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Massachusetts’) plants, another one for the front sloping bed, where I hope to start taking out the Stella D’Oro lillies, and one to try on the deck. This is obvious – why haven’t I planted bearberry on the deck so far? It is perfectly suited to the deck conditions, and should be a fantastic addition year-round. It does mean I have to move around some plants to make room for it (but that’s one of my favorite pastimes).
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) for the shady bed under the kiwi vine and dogwood tree in the side garden. The NEWFS staff warned me this may be a bit of a thug, and this is an area that needs kind of a thuggy shade loving plant, even the heuchera have been slow here, and it is bounded on all sides by the stone wall, brick path or lumber steps.
Trailing Arbutus (epigaea repens). This is the Massachusetts state flower, and I’ve never even heard of it!
Canadian windflower (Anemone canadensis L.). This is another shade-loving plant with a reputation for being aggressive. I’m planning to put it in the dogleg with the Mayapple, and under the dwarf plum on the deck (in a container). I’m hoping it will help to fill in these areas.
Now you know I’m a gardening geek…really, getting the response made my day :-). So, who, you might ask, is Mr. Smarty Plants? Actually, it’s not one person, it’s several people who all answer questions about native plants sent in to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Information Network.
I was looking for a recommendation about a ground cover that could withstand the heavy rainfall right next to the west wall of our townhouse. See the full question and response here. Unfortunately, Mr. Smarty Plant’s answer was essentially, that’s a tough question. They did suggest several shade-tolerant ground covers native to Massachusetts, and I was pleased to note that I have several of them already, but I don’t think most will work in these conditions. Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger) is much slower to grow and spread than the European ginger and I’m not sure I could get it established in this spot; I love both Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) and Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) but have yet to have either of them survive and thrive again after a winter; Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is kind of fragile, I think, and needs to be mostly undisturbed. It grows in deep shade under my Weeping Alaskan Cedars, which I love, but I doubt I could get it established with the kind of hard rainfall that this area gets. I haven’t tried Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) and perhaps I should, or Barren Strawberry? That’s done well in a few areas of my garden. The best suggestion, I think, is sedum, which I could grow elsewhere and then move over as a mat. I’ve got a couple of sedums growing elsewhere in difficult spots, but I don’t know if I can identify the specific kind of sedum, or find this one:Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop) in a nursery around here.
I may go with a succession planting scheme, starting with some fast-growing and tough non-natives, to hold the erosion at bay, and then start to move in a native ground cover.
Just a few days into April, and there are small signs of growth – new leaves, new buds – appearing everywhere. Here’s a tour of some of the signs I saw today.
The wild ginger (Asarum europaeum), under the cherry tree, has new leaves just emerging from the ground.
My two Dog Hobbles (Leucothoe fontaneiana) on the side of the house took some damage from rain coming off the roof here, despite the gutter we added last year. They lived up to their evergreen reputation, though, and now have some small buds appearing.
And here are two non-natives that bring in the spring with early flowers: Candy Tuft, out in my south-facing street bed: and Heath, bringing a touch of color between our Alaskan Weeping Cedar trees on the northwest side of our house.
Fall really feels like the beginning of the garden year, not the end. This is when I am most inspired to rearrange and add new plants, and for most perennials, this is a great time to plant. After the summer, I know what didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped, either because I didn’t plan it out correctly, or the plant doesn’t seem to like its spot (or sometimes likes it too much). So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing lots of rearranging. The patch under the Dawn Redwood was one of my projects; I also decided to give up on the day lilies and irises in our dogleg garden. I thought that area got some sun, but that was before the kiwi vine on the nearby fence really got established! I decided to replant the bed entirely with more shade-tolerant plants that will fit into the narrow bed better, too.
I also wanted plants that are evergreen or at least semi-evergreen, to cover the cement foundation. But they can’t grow too big! The fire alarm for our building is on this wall, about 4 feet up, and has to be kept clear. A trip to the New England Wildflower Society turned up these two lovely Dog H obble (Leucothoe fonanesiana) plants, that only grow to 2 – 4 ft tall (and wide), and a beautiful Coastal Azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum), in a kind of blue-gray shade that goes nicely against the rain urn here.
Most of the irises are now positioned in another part sun/part shade bed, in the gap between the Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum var. nudum) bushes. I put a few out in the shady sidewalk boxes (not an ideal spot for them, but the greens will help to fill in these boxes even if they don’t flourish), and gave some to a neighbor. I moved the day lilies down to the very narrow strip between the retaining wall and driveway. This spot was originally filled with junk dirt from the time of construction,and it seems like it couldn’t possibly support any plants, but it’s sported a great line of daffodils, liatris, and what seems to be a perennial chrysthanemum (planted by one of my neighbors) sequentially, and I hope the day lilies will fit in. My grandmother had a beautiful bed of these tiger lilies along the sidewalk of her house, and I’ve wanted to replicate it ever since she died, as a kind of remembrance.
A bare patch in the front street bed still confounds me. There’s a large root from the maple tree right under this patch that seems to steal all the water from any plant I’ve tried to establish there. I’m now thinking I may need to wait for the barren strawberry to wend its way over, since it can take sustenance from several points along the way, and does well in dry-ish areas. I may have to wait for the spring to work on this one!